1,300 students are redefining “summer school”

Instructor Paul Smith works with a student during his Aerospace Composites

Summer school is sometimes thought of as a punishment, something students are forced to do when they fall behind during the standard school year. That’s not the case at the Pierce County Skills Center.

“I would say a majority of the students are here because they want to be here, because they’re interested,” said Jerred Erickson, PCSC’s Dean of Students.

So why would 1,300 students — roughly 600 at PCSC and the rest at satellite campuses — willingly give up a portion of their summer vacation just to go back to school?

For one reason, summer courses at the Skills Center are fun. Students are given introductory lessons on how to cook, fix cars, or fight fires, to name just a few of the many classes offered.

“That’s an advantage we have. The classes are really active,” Erickson said. “We’re going to keep them really busy. Not only here, but at our satellite campuses as well.”

Erickson said summer classes also give younger students a taste of what the Skills Center has to offer. During the regular school year, PCSC is only open to high school juniors and seniors who meet certain requirements. All high school students, including kids who just finished eighth grade, are welcome to take classes in the summertime.

“More and more, the students who come to us during summer school are the ones who are applying here maybe two or three years later when they’re a junior or senior and when they’re ready to take on our programs that are preparatory, whereas these classes are exploratory,” Erickson said.

One of the most popular classes offered at the Skills Center is Paul Smith’s Aerospace Composites course, where students learn to fabricate, assemble, and repair composite materials for an aircraft.

In addition to teaching technical skills, Smith also shows his students how conduct themselves during job interviews so they can succeed professionally after graduation.

All the work seems to be paying off, as Smith says roughly two thirds of his students are offered work in the composites field within days of the school year ending.

The summer program has two, three-week sessions in June and July. A third session is available in August at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma. More information about the summer school program is available at https://www.bethelsd.org/domain/4386

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